Accompanying parents through early childhood

The pastoral work of Mothers’ and Fathers’ Advisors

Authors

  • Laura Preissler University of Lucerne

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.17356/ieejsp.v8i3.859
Abstract Views: 54 PDF Downloads: 80

Keywords:

parenting, early childhood, pastoral power, governmentality, advising

Abstract

This paper explores expert guidance of parenting in Switzerland and discusses the work of the mothers’ and fathers’ advisors (MVBs), a state-funded service providing counselling to parents of preschool children. The data presented here draws upon ethnographic research which investigates parenting as a site of ‘governance’. Based on semi-structured interviews as well as participant observation with MVBs and parents, this paper examines (power) relationships between early childhood experts and parents. The findings demonstrate that the practices deemed appropriate for the surveillance and guidance of parenting today are a clear example of what Michel Foucault dubbed ‘pastoral power’ and include the gathering and archiving of information, as well as hierarchical observation. Reconnecting insecure or overly intellectual mothers with their ‘maternal instincts’, which some advisors felt were at risk of being lost, involves the facilitation of technologies of self. The paper also explores ‘resistance’ against pastoral care, which is not necessarily perceived as well-intentioned or helpful by parents, who may strive not to implement advice or completely reject ‘accompaniment’ by advisors.

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Published

2022-11-02

Issue

Section

Parenting and the State